Lost in Time: Blaster Master 2

Blaster Master for NES is awesome. With a Metroid-style open world, top notch graphics, and a fantastic soundtrack, there's little not to love about the original Blaster Master. What most people don't know, is just how many sequels it got. From Game Boy to PlayStation, Sunsoft has been trying to recreate the success of the original for years. Way back in 1993, while the NES was reaching the end of its days, Sunsoft wanted to make a 16-bit sequel to their flagship title. Blaster Master 2, however, wouldn't be what fans expected.

The hallmark of many hidden gems: crappy box art.

The hallmark of many hidden gems: crappy box art.

There is an overarching story to the Blaster Master series, and it makes absolutely no sense. In the first game, the player took control of a teenager named Jason who's pet frog jumped into some nuclear waste, grew to a massive size, and fell down a giant hole. Jason, abandoning all caution and rational thought, followed his beloved frog down the hole where he found a tank named S.O.P.H.I.A. Jumping right in, (as you do) Jason proceeds to slaughter all in his path in the name of rescuing his pet frog, and I think there was something about saving the world too, but it really doesn't matter. Blaster Master isn't about story, it's about awesome. Your tank can jump, hover, climb walls, and even swim, while at any time Jason can climb out and wreak havoc on foot. This mechanic affords the opportunity for some very different styles of gameplay. The tank segments are 2D platformers, while the on foot sections play out like an overhead action game. By the time the 16-bit generation came along, Blaster Master had become a cult favorite on the NES, and fans eagerly awaited the franchise's next-gen debut. But instead of continuing the series on Nintendo's Super NES, Sunsoft decided the new home for Blaster Master would be the Sega Genesis.

Not a bad view to start the game with

Not a bad view to start the game with

When players started the game, they were treated to a very familiar experience. S.O.P.H.I.A. still drove like a dream, you could still jump in and out of your tank, and everything looked brighter thanks to the power of the Genesis. Things started to get weird though, when entering what used to be the overhead sections. Where in the first game, the on foot stages were large labyrinths, this time the player would control Jason from a side scrolling perspective, and the rooms were limited to boss battles only. The original overhead mechanic wasn't lost though, just this time you played them as S.O.P.H.I.A.

The controls here were designed by a crazy person

The controls here were designed by a crazy person

Controlling these areas was a strange affair, to put it politely. The D-pad moved your tank, while the face buttons took care of aiming and shooting. The result was quite cumbersome, and often lead to a lot of frustrating deaths. Speaking of frustration, this game is very difficult. Sure, there were continues and power-ups to be found, but the overall level of difficulty was even more punishing than the original. Combining that with the strange control scheme, the move from Nintendo to Sega, nonexistent marketing, and some truly terrible box art, Blaster Master 2 wash't exactly a sales success for Sunsoft. As of the time of this writing, it has never been re-released on any platform.

What's more awesome than a hovering tank?

What's more awesome than a hovering tank?

Despite this, Blaster Master 2 was a very good game. Once the obstacles were overcome, players again were treated to a unique world to explore with a totally awesome jumping tank. The game's soundtrack is also worth noting, as it ranks among the finest on the Genesis.

Thankfully, despite the poor sales of both this game and the strange offshoot Blaster Master: Boy for the Game Boy, Sunsoft has not forgotten the franchise. The Game Boy Color and PlayStation saw their own Blaster Master games in late 2000, and there was even a WiiWare title called Blaster Master: Overdrive released in 2010. With Sunsoft providing some recent support to the Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console services, it would be great to see them dust this game off for one more ride.

If you ever find yourself with a Sega Genesis connected to your television, it would be worth the effort to track this game down. There is almost nothing like it out there, and experiences this unique, good or bad, are almost always worth your time. Blaster Master 2 may be strange, but it has a lot to offer.